Benjamin Franklin once described a visit he made as a young man to see the Puritan preacher Cotton Mather. Franklin recalled: “He was showing me out of the house, and there was a very low beam near the doorway. I was still talking when Mather began shouting, ‘Stoop! Stoop!’ I didn’t understand what he meant and banged my head on the beam. ‘You’re young,’ he said, ‘and have the world before you. Stoop as you go through it, and you will avoid many hard thumps.’ That advice has been very useful to me. I avoided many misfortunes by not carrying my head too high in pride.”
Arrogance is not limited to the young. Those who have received God’s grace can also suffer from this affliction. Spiritual arrogance is the result of drawing false conclusions about God’s dealings in our lives. After the Exodus, Moses warned Israel not to make wrong assumptions about their experience of grace: “The LORD did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples” (Deut. 7:7). Israel had been chosen because of God’s love.
Paul strikes a similar note in today’s passage. He warns the Gentiles who have experienced God’s grace through Christ not to jump to conclusions. The fact that they have been chosen to receive mercy does not mean that they are worthy of it. The opposite is true. The experience of grace assumes the need for grace. There would be no mercy without the presence of sin.
In the case of the Gentiles, spiritual pride is doubly foolish. Not only does it fail to appreciate the nature of grace, it misreads God’s dealings with Israel. God’s apparent rejection of Israel was only temporary. God allowed Israel to stumble so that the Gentiles could hear the gospel—but He has not rejected them. If the Gentile nations have been blessed because of Israel’s rejection of the gospel, how much more would the world be blessed by their acceptance?